Every once in a while, my brain resets itself with music. I might be on a 1970s rock kick for months, happily plowing through records by Starz and Montrose, and then one day I just stop and start on something else. There’s no upside to fighting your subconscious.
A couple of months ago, I suddenly had to listen to Thelonious Monk, a singular jazz pianist. I had a few records but hadn’t really explored them, and now I couldn’t stop. First it was Monk, then Bill Evans, and over the next few weeks I dug into both, veering between history’s most elusive pianist and perhaps its most gorgeously lyrical.
Local jazz luminary Dick Sisto has a story: “Somebody asked Bill Evans, ‘Who’s your favorite piano player?’ and he said, ‘Thelonious Monk.’ The interviewer said, ‘Really? That’s the furthest away from your style that I can imagine.’ Evans said, ‘Yeah, that’s what it’s all about.’ ”
That’s the beauty of jazz. Within the structure of its borders, there are endless opportunities for self-expression, and once musicians learn how to lay the foundation they’re free to build whatever they can imagine. Their brains reset every few bars of every song.
This week and next, more than 600 young musicians are in Louisville for the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops at the University of Louisville, an intense program that Aebersold has been guiding for nearly 40 years. Educators and professionals from all over the country are giving master classes daily before students and teachers alike are turned loose to perform.
Student concerts are July 6 and 13 from noon to 5 p.m., in U of L’s Comstock and Bird recital halls. They are free to the public. A more traditional jazz experience is tonight and July 13 at the Old Seelbach Bar, where Sisto once reigned every weekend before budget restraints shut down the bar’s live music.
Sisto, a vibrophonist, will be joined by bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Ed Soph and pianist Steve Allee for two long sets tonight at 8 and 10 p.m. Next Friday, Aebersold will do the same with a quartet of his own. It’s all free.
“When musicians from the same generation hook up, it makes a difference, and this group of players has good chemistry,” Sisto said of his crew. “It’s the only group that’s ever gotten a standing ovation in all my years at the Seelbach.”